Physicians warn: ATVs and children can be dangerous combination
All-terrain vehicles and kids can be a dangerous mix, especially for those who tend to treat the ATVs like toys instead of high-powered vehicles, officials said Tuesday.
The number of young patients being seen at the Lee Memorial Hospital Trauma Center with ATV-related injuries has steadily increased over the past few years. The patients range in age from age two to 18 and have a variety of injuries, including head trauma, lung contusions, mangled extremities, open bone fractures and associated soft tissue and visceral injuries.
“As a surgeon, I’ve clearly seen an increase in the number of devastating injuries resulting from kids riding ATVs,” says Brett Shannon, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Pediatric Orthopedics of Southwest Florida. “I’d estimate that I’m seeing about one every weekend now.”
Dr. Shannon and his associate, Dr. Churchill, treat pediatric patients with severe ATV-related injuries at both The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida at HealthPark Medical Center and the Lee Memorial Hospital Trauma Center.
After the patient is stabilized, the surgeons and their staff work with the patient’s family to coordinate all the necessary follow-up treatment, which can include physical therapy, occupational therapy and plastic surgery. Some patients’ injuries result in permanent loss of function and other lifelong consequences.
“We really need more national and local awareness regarding the issue of ATV safety, especially for kids,” Dr. Shannon said. “The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons is currently conducting a great public service campaign that includes a focus on ATV safety.”
The AAOS recommends that children under 12 years of age not be permitted to operate any ATV. According to the AAOS, “Younger children do not have adequate physical size and strength to control these vehicles. Nor do they have the thinking, motor, and perceptive skills to operate a vehicle safely.” They recommend that children under the age of 16 only operate ATVs that have an engine size less than 90 cc. Additional guidelines can be found at the AAOS web site at www.aaos.com
“It’s easy for many young kids to underestimate these powerful machines,” says Dr. Shannon.